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UK Innovator visa

Ideal solution for experienced entrepreneurs with viable business idea. Minimum investment £50,000.
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Citizenship guide
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What is Innovator Visa?

Innovator visa is an ideal route for entrepreneurs with a new business idea who wish to start a company in the United Kingdom or experienced businessmen that have been running a business outside the United Kingdom for many years and wish to expand it to the UK. You can do it either alone or with a business partner – the same as with the abolished Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, Innovators can form an entrepreneurial team. To be eligible for Innovator visa you need to invest in a new business idea, which means you are not allowed to join or invest into an already established business.

Innovator visa leads to settlement and eventually to British citizenship. Once you get your business idea endorsed, all you need to do is start a company, take an active part in developing your business idea in the UK and other markets, grow the business, create revenue and jobs. Make sure you stick to and fulfil initial projections that were given when you first applied for an Innovator visa.

Benefits of UK Innovator visa

Innovator visa is a business visa that gives access to booming UK market. It is your chance to expand your business, increase the number of customers worldwide, generate profit and contribute to the community by creating jobs. Initial visa is issued for 3 years and you can extend it any number of times and every three years you can start a new business.

  • Start a business in UK
  • Entrepreneurial team
  • Bring your family to the UK
  • Get British passport

Requirements for Innovator visa

You must be able to invest at least £50,000 into a new company. If you submit the application with other entrepreneurs and form a team, each of you must have access to £50,000. The source of funds can be any. However, if the endorsement letter confirms that at least £50,000 funds are available, there is no need to provide any other evidence.

Other requirements

Apart from relevant business experience and education entrepreneurs must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Your business idea must be endorsed.
  • A valid business plan.
  • Ability to maintain yourself and dependants.
  • Knowledge of English at Level B2.
  • You must be of good health.
  • Clean criminal record.

How long it takes to apply for an Innovator visa

The processing time is around 3 weeks to get a decision. However, the whole preparation process might take longer because you must have a business plan in place and then have your idea endorsed. Innovator visa is initially given for 3 years and can be extended for another 3 years unlimited number of times.

How to get endorsement?

To be able to apply for the Innovator visa, you must prove that your business idea or business is viable, innovative and scalable. You do it by having it assessed first and then endorsed by a relevant body. A business plan would be of great help here to anyone evaluating your idea. There is a list on endorsing bodies published on the government website.

General criteria for endorsement

Innovative

It is clear from the name of the visa itself that you cannot rely on anything that already exists on the market. You must be able to offer a product or a service that is truly original and new, and it must target new or existing customers. And, of course, you must have a competitive advantage.

Viable

You must show that you will be able to develop your idea into a real business that is robust and future-proof. To do this, you will need a relevant skill set, qualifications and experience, combined with a great understanding of the current market, in order to propel your idea forward.

Scalable

In growing a business, you must not be complacent and never stand still. Your business must be able to create jobs and grow both in the UK and global markets.

Follow-up re-evaluations

After your visa is granted, you will have three so-called checkpoints at 6, 12 and 24 months after that, to update the endorsing body on your progress and confirm the compliance with all the requirements. If the endorsing body withdraws your endorsement before your visa expires, you need to get a new endorsement and re-apply. Otherwise, your visa will be cancelled.

How to extend Innovator visa?

You can apply to extend your visa if you are still running an endorsed business in the UK or wish to start a new one. In both cases, you need to have an endorsement letter from an approved body and £50,000 of available funds if this is a new business. Here are other criteria for Innovator visa extension:

  • Confirmation from the endorsing body that they assessed your business for extension.
  • You can still support yourself and dependants.

You must include all dependants in your application for extension, including children that turned 18 during the initial stay. Innovator visa can be extended for three years for an unrestricted number of times.

Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

Entrepreneurs can apply for ILR in 3 years from the first entry under the Innovator route. You must also provide an endorsement letter that would confirm what you and your business have achieved since the previous endorsement and that you have been actively engaged in running the business and will continue to do so in the future.

Settlement requirements

The business must meet at least two of the following criteria in any combination:

  • At least £50,000 has been spent on running a UK company;
  • Significant increase in the number of customers, higher than the market average;
  • Research and development activities, patents;
  • Gross revenue of £1 million in the last year;
  • Gross revenue of £500,000 in the last year, including £100,000 from exports;
  • 10 full-time jobs for resident workers;
  • 5 full-time jobs with average annual salary of £25,000 (gross).

Other criteria

Your absences from the United Kingdom cannot exceed 180 days in any 12 months during last 3 years before applying for settlement. Dependants are given ILR on the basis of the main applicant. All adult applicants must also pass an English language test and a Life in the UK test.

British citizenship and passport

You and your family can apply to be naturalised or registered as British citizens in 12 months after ILR is granted and once you have spent at least 5 years in the UK. All applicants must meet all the eligibility criteria below. It normally takes 4-6 weeks to get a decision.

  • In 5 years prior to applying for citizenship you cannot spend more than 450 days outside the UK and more than 90 days in the last year.
  • You must have clean criminal and immigration records.
  • Knowledge of the English language at Level B1 or higher.
  • Life in the UK test.

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